Top 10 Non-Touristy Things To Do In San Francisco

Photo of Max Glassburg
9 February 2017

You don’t have to follow the tourist crowds to have fun in San Francisco. Whether you want to hike, eat, climb, or sing, we list 10 great things to do and see here that are guaranteed to be memorable, exciting and just a little different.

The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project I | © Ed Bierman/Flickr

Get local. Get organic. Shop at a farmers’ market.

San Francisco hosts dozens of farmers’ markets all across the city. Farmers’ markets aren’t necessarily cheaper than the local grocery store, but the small increase in price supports local business and organic, sustainable farming. You’ll notice the taste difference and discover things you can’t get anywhere else.

Jog or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge

Map View
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.
© Andriy Bezuglov / Alamy Stock Photo
While everybody knows the Golden Gate Bridge as an iconic architectural structure, those new to San Francisco might not be familiar with how accessible it is to the general population. Forgo that hefty $6.00 bridge toll by car and use your own muscle to bustle across into East Bay. The bridge spans 1.7 miles, which makes it perfect for a light walk, job or bike.

Rent a karaoke room in Japantown

Bar, Japanese, American
Map View
Top of Twin Peaks
Top of Twin Peaks | © Vincent Bloch/Wikimedia Commons
Karaoke bars and lounges are everywhere, but Japantown offers the most immersive experience. Japantown is a small, welcoming neighborhood in the city that features some unique dining experiences. Rates will vary, but from $50-200 you can rent a private room with your friends or date and have uninterrupted fun.

Twin Peaks

Hiking up Twin Peaks is not only great exercise, but it is way to connect with pre-industrial San Francisco. At 922 feet, it is one of the largest hills in the city; it also offers incredible views of the Bay Area. Open seven days a week, dawn till dusk, San Francisco’s Twin Peaks offers the most beautiful views in the city. The wind gets gusty up here, so dress warm.

The 16th Avenue Tiled Step Project

The 16th Avenue Tiled Step Project is a beautiful work of urban art. For two years, from 2003-2005, the steel steps were tiled over with the pure intention of making them more beautiful, and this is certainly the most photogenic staircase you are going to find in the city. The tiles create a city mosaic that rivals any mural project in the country.

SOMA StrEat Food Park

Food Court, Street Food, $$$
Map View
View from Lands End
View from Lands End | © Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons
The SOMA StrEat Food Park is the perfect place to choose from an assortment of great local food trucks, grab a cold beer, and either watch some sports or relax in the sun. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, the food park offers free wifi and hosts regular events to keep things interesting.

Lands End

Bridge, Natural Feature
Map View
San Francisco is not a large city, but it is densely packed with beautiful features. Visitors and locals alike have long relished the sights and experience of hiking to Lands End. The hike itself is not too strenuous and takes you past incredible coastal views until you get to the end. At Lands End itself you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, East Bay, and of course, the ocean, all from one incredible vantage point. Hikers, bikers, exercise groups, and dog-walkers frequent this path, which begins right off the Great Highway.

Night tour at Alcatraz

Natural Feature
Map View
Anyone can book a tour to Alcatraz, but only those in the know will get the night tour. The infamous prison looms between East Bay and San Francisco; its vicinity to the city haunted its inmates. The phrase ‘so close but so far away’ has never been so poignant. Tours to the rock run all day long, but only a few hundred can book a night tour per night, which is not many, considering the popularity of the island. The experience is the most memorable tour you’re likely to find, anywhere.

Watch the San Francisco Giants play at AT&T Park

Park, Stadium, Historical Landmark
Map View
AT&T Ballpark, San Francisco.
The Giants won three World Series over a five-year period | © Dave Newman / Alamy Stock Photo

The San Francisco Giants were the 2014 MLB World Series champions, so it makes sense this is a popular place to be on game day. The park itself is accessible by public transport and is a neat work of architecture. Expect less-than-accommodating prices if you’re getting a beef frank on game day, but for $13 you can enjoy their famous crab sandwich; probably the best crab sandwich in baseball. Giants’ tickets aren’t overly expensive, if you know where to look and aren’t too picky about your seats.

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